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Automotive Mileposts  
Production Numbers
Thunderbird hood ornament
INTRODUCTION DATE: September, 1973
Body Style Code: 65K - 2-Door Hardtop
VIN/Body Serial Code: 87
1974 Ford Thunderbird grille detail

Code A 460 CID 4V V-8 Engine
(220 Net Horsepower)
Carter 4-Barrel Carburetor
Single Exhaust System
4.36" x 3.85" Bore x Stroke
8.0:1 Compression Ratio

Make a Little
Thunder of Your Own

Code U SelectShift Automatic (C6, 3-Speed)
Code Z SelectShift Automatic (C6, 3-Speed Special)

Code K 2.75:1 (Limited Slip)
Code O 3.00:1 (Limited Slip)
Code R 3.25:1 (Limited Slip)
Code 2 2.75:1
Code 6 3.00:1
Code 9 3.25:1
WHEELBASE: 120.4 Inches

Length: 224.8 Inches
Height: 53 Inches
Width: 79.7 Inches
Weight: 5,033 Pounds
Big Brother Is Watching

In an effort to protect automobile passengers and increase usage of seat belts, the Government mandated the Ignition/Seat Belt Interlock System for all cars assembled with the intent of U. S. delivery. This complicated system included an ignition interlock that prevented the engine from starting if belts for occupied front seats are not buckled in the proper sequence, which means before starting the car.

Confused? So were many new car buyers in 1974. A warning light and buzzer remind outboard front seat passengers to buckle up. A logic circuit prevents the engine from starting if any outboard passenger attempts to beat the system by extending the harness before sitting, or buckling belts together behind them. And if something broke or malfunctioned and the car needed to be driven, a by-pass button was provided under the hood to enable the driver to start the car. Needless to say, this was NOT A POPULAR FEATURE!

If a package (or a heavy purse) were placed on the passenger seat, the car wouldn't start! This was an additional hassle that the public did not want on its cars, and no doubt caused a few to wonder if they really needed a new car. On top of the interlock system, 1974 was a bad year to buy big cars due to the oil crisis. Americans were becoming increasingly wary of large cars with poor gas mileage, even if they could afford the gas (which most T-Bird owners probably could), there were reports of long lines and stations running out of gas. A luxury car really isn't a luxury if you can't buy gas to drive it.

The impending fuel crisis was unknown to Ford during the time the 1974 Thunderbird was being updated. Virtually the same car as the Mark IV, the Thunderbird would have to create interest with annual updates. And 1974 was the last year any noticeable changes were made to the Thunderbird until its next restyle in 1977.

The rear bumper and tail lamp area were the major change for the year. The Thunderbird lost its full-width tail lamps that had been its trademark almost every year since 1966 (with the exception being 1969). The rear bumper, by federal mandate, had to withstand direct impact at five miles per hour without damage. This mandate was a requirement for the front bumpers in 1973, and these two items alone contributed to about 350 extra pounds. Is it any wonder the average mileage was around 11.6 mpg as tested under varying conditions by Motor Trend magazine?

The backup lights, formerly in the rear bumper, were moved up into the center section of the tail lamps, similar to 1966 except the clear section didn't illuminate in red with the running lights. A die cast Thunderbird emblem was placed in the middle of this clear lens. The red sections on either side of the backup light were divided into four sections, with the outermost section featuring a rounded top edge, to create a "drop off" effect very much like the top edge of the tail lamps on the 1973 models. The red sections all lit up with the running lights, with the two outboard sections serving double duty as brake and signal lamps.

Inside, very few changes were made. It is significant to note that 1974 was the first year since 1958 that the Thunderbird did not have bucket front seats available. They had been optional at extra cost since 1968, and from 1969 on most Thunderbirds from that point forward were equipped with one form or another of the standard bench seat. The sales literature for 1974 pointed out that "Just moments inside Thunderbird can spoil you for anything else. It is that luxurious". As long as your idea of luxury isn't bucket seats, that is.

The era of the big luxurious Thunderbird was coming to a close quickly. Little did anyone know, a new smaller Thunderbird was in the design stage. Yet this next generation would soar to new heights of popularity, leaving all previous sales records far behind.

Thunderbird '74. Meticulously designed as only a classic can be. With innovative engineering and a level of road performance unique in all the world. Make a little Thunder of your own.